Today marks the first day of class for many Louisiana college students, and those who attend school in the LSU or Southern University system could be in for some sticker shock. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, full-time students at LSU’s main campus will pay an extra $282 per semester, while students at Southern’s main campus are being docked an extra $217 in fees (which, unlike tuition, are not covered by TOPS scholarships). While fees affect every student, they can be especially hard on students from low-income families. Campuses say they’re needed after a decade of budget cuts, but some lawmakers were surprised that they came so soon after the Legislature passed a spending plan that included standstill funding for higher education.
(House Speaker Taylor) Barras said he heard from many lawmakers displeased when the LSU Board of Supervisors raised fees only days after that tax deal was done. Southern University’s governing board followed a week later. Rep. Ted James, a Baton Rouge Democrat, showed up at the Southern board meeting to object to the move, saying lawmakers who supported the sales tax didn’t expect universities to still raise costs on students. “It pains me that we are having this less than three weeks after we voted,” James said.
Louisiana’s low math scores
Even as Louisiana’s test scores inch up in other subjects, public school students in the Pelican State continue to perform horribly in math. That’s especially true as students move from elementary into middle school, where scores tend to drop precipitously from earlier grades. The trend prompted the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to hold a brief “retreat” last week to discuss matters. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports, they came up with a depressing conclusion: Middle-school students aren’t learning math because their teachers don’t know math.
The state Department of Education said the latest math results “highlight a need for stronger mathematics instruction statewide, particularly in later elementary and middle grades, to help students to build better mathematics reasoning and general content knowledge.” Part of the problem, officials said, is that some math teachers, especially in grades six, seven and eight, lack the facts and figures needed to prepare students – content knowledge. “If there is one issue it is that we are really struggling to teach our kids what is in the curriculum,” (Superintendent of Education John) White said.
Shooting ourselves in the (financial) foot
Louisiana taxpayers will soon pay more than is necessary for a massive highway widening project thanks to political grandstanding by the state Bond Commission. As The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reported last week, the commission voted 7-6 to bar two of the country’s largest banks, Citigroup and Bank of America, from bidding on a $600 million infrastructure plan. The reason: Both banks stopped lending money to companies that manufacture assault-style weapons such as the AR-15. The Advocate’s editorial board is not amused.
This is a pointless political fight, pure and simple, that has the potential to restrict competition when the state seeks bids for financing the new highway projects. “I am worried about the bottom line to the state of Louisiana, too. True conservatives worry about the dollars,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, a member of the commission. … Renee Boicourt, the commission’s financial adviser, said prohibiting the two banks that control a third of the nation’s government bond market would cost state taxpayers more money. She also noted that only Chicago considered tying gun control policy to bonds, but city officials backed off upon realizing the move would make bonds more expensive.
The rising cost of motherhood
More women than ever before are graduating from college, and women are increasingly entering career fields that have traditionally been dominated by men. The percentage of high school seniors who aspire to be “homemakers” is tiny – around 2 percent. But despite these gains, the percentage of women in the labor force has leveled off since 1995, which has created something of an economic mystery. Why aren’t more women working? Claire Cain Miller, writing for The New York Times’ Upshot blog, reports on a new paper that points to the rising “cost” of motherhood.
The cost of motherhood fell for most of the 20th century because of inventions like dishwashers, formula and the birth control pill. But that’s no longer the case, according to data cited in the paper. The cost of child care has increased by 65 percent since the early 1980s. Eighty percent of women breast-feed, up from about half. The number of hours that parents spend on child care has risen, especially for college-educated parents, for whom it has doubled. … The lack of family-friendly policies in the United States — such as paid family leave and subsidized child care — most likely plays a role, too. Although policies have improved somewhat since the early 1990s, women’s labor force participation in countries that have more generous policies has continued to increase, unlike in the United States.
Number of the Day
65 percent – Increase in the cost of child care in the United States since the early 1980s (Source: The New York Times)